Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Great Moments in Broadcast Signal Intrusion

Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a term given to the act of hijacking broadcast signals of radio and television stations. Hijacking incidents have involved local TV and radio stations as well as cable and national networks.

Yesterday Montana TV station KRTV reported that someone hacked into their Emergency Broadcast System and broadcast of an impending emergency in several Montana counties. According to Great Falls Tribune, regular programming was interrupted with a voice-over that warned that bodies were rising from their graves and attacking humans (video 1, 2).
“Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are extremely dangerous…”
This is not the first time a Broadcast Signal Intrusion has happened. Here are some of my favorites:

The so-called 'Max Headroom Pirate Incident' from 1987. The first incident occurred during the sports segment of the WGN 9:00 p.m. news broadcast; During the sports section of the 9pm news broadcast on Americas WGN network, an unauthorised signal over powered the sations transmitters and was broadcast for over a minute. The signal had no audio, but the video was of someone in a Max Headroom mask gesturing at the camera.

The second of these incidents occured during the evening broadcast of Dr Who on WTTW. This time the signal had audio and viewers were witness to a unintelligble rant from the 'fake' Max Headroom character.

East Enders interrupted by techno music and geometric shapes.

In May 2012 viewers of UK terrestrial TV were suddenly faced with this alarming yet intriguing break in normal transmission. The perpetrators are still being hunted by OfCom for a violation of UK broadcasting law. If caught, the individuals could face hefty fines or even imprisonment. Quite how they managed to break into the network is still unknown. OfCom and broadcast industry experts are keeping a tight lid on how it may have happened. The only information released is that the broadcast may have been inserted somewhere in the North of England, possibly near the Emley Moor or Winter Hill Transmitter sites

On a late-December evening in 1989, a Los Angeles television station was victim of a broadcast signal takeover.

A broadcast of the Reagan/Bush gavel passing was interrupted by a man wearing a tin foil mask. The crazed person uttered mostly gibberish and becomes flustered when a piece of his "set" falls apart. 30-seconds later, the program returned to normal.

This broadcast of the popular PBS cooking show, "The Frugal Gourmet," was interrupted by a video pirate.

Deep into the night during an HBO broadcast of The Falcon and the Snowman in April 1986, subscribers were startled to see the start of the action interrupted by a four-and-a-half-minute transmission from a certain “Captain Midnight.” Over a test pattern, the message from Captain Midnight ran as follows:

$12.95/MONTH ?

Captain Midnight turned out to be a John MacDougall, an engineer at a satellite transmission facility in Ocala, Florida. MacDougall’s hacker attack was motivated by frustration at HBO, who he felt was overcharging satellite customers and hurting his satellite dish business. MacDougall was sentenced to one year’s probation and a $5,000 fine.

You can read more about the Max Headroom broadcast intrusion here.

Keep watching the skies.


Anonymous said...

You do know that several of these are fake don't you?

((Jim)) said...

Please say more. In what way/s and which ones are fake?